Thursday, December 25, 2008

New International Style

Sanlitun Village, Beijing

Walking in some parts of Beijing, I really don't know where I am. The buildings look so generic that it could be any place in the world. Oddly, this sense of genericity does not come from homogeneity or standardization. Rather, it is the wide range or variations within the same category that makes it look like the same thing repeated over and over again. There is a new type of International Style going on right now. But it's not the same as the International Style we know from the 1920s and 30s.

What is this new style then? I would give you this formular:
no matter how they are justified.
"Skyline of Icons," caricature by OMA

A funny shape can be the result of programmatic thinking, contextual considerations, and/or purely formal intuitions. The most convenient excuse may be the site - oh yea, the building envelope just looks like that. Another popular reason is programmatic connections. It may result in a bridge, a loop (including Mobius strip) , or an entirely warped form. Not many people are satisfied with just boxes nowadays, especially when they don't have fancy skins. When you are making boxes, they must be stacked in a funny way (different types of spaces) or carved out with a funny void (to engage urban activities).

A fancy skin implies ornament and decoration. It's ultimately a pattern no matter how you want to theorize it. It can be 2D or 3D, structural or cladding, hard or soft, transparent or translucent or opaque, black or white or color... It's like fashion design - an endless game of fetishization.

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